The Adventure of Obedience

God writes the best adventures. From Abraham to the Apostles, God draws unsuspecting men out of their routines and sets them on unexpected journeys. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, but after meeting a burning bush, he eventually found himself leading a whole nation out of slavery. Peter was fishing in a remote corner of the world, but after encountering an exceptional man, he ended his life in Rome, leading God’s people.

These journeys were entirely unexpected, and often undesired, at least at first. Moses said he wasn’t eloquent enough, and Jeremiah objected that he was too young. In each case, God answered their objection and redoubled his offer. He still respected their freedom. They had to take the first step willingly. Thus, the secret ingredient of these adventures was obedience. Their adventures only began when they obeyed, leaving their routine and following God.

Without obedience, there’s no adventure. The Gospel records various would-be followers of Jesus. They try to write their own adventures, but without obedience, their attempts fail. In one case, a man tells Jesus: “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” But Jesus answers: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:61ff.). Or remember the rich man, who refused the adventure of poverty, choosing rather to depart in sadness.

To us, this connection between adventure and obedience may seem a bit strange. Our culture prizes the former and disdains the latter. Yet the real thrill in an adventure is the unplanned moment or the unscripted wrinkle, even if it is a hardship that must be overcome or simply endured. If we want a truly thrilling adventure, we cannot plan it ourselves. Another author must take up the pen. The better the author, the better the adventure.

 

What does this look like in our lives? We probably won’t encounter burning bushes or receive angelic visitors. Rather, God often speaks to us in more subtle ways. Sometimes it’s the exceptional moment that inspires us. Or perhaps it’s the everyday obedience to a parent or a spouse, or the obedience in accepting one’s personality or even one’s body, with their limits and weaknesses. With due prudence—and sometimes a helpful friend or spiritual director—we can discern God’s hand in these circumstances.

Obedience doesn’t always feel like an adventure. For the most part, it’s only in the rearview mirror that we glimpse how far God has brought us and the wonders he has done. Remembering these wonders prepares us for the daily adventure of obedience.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

Br. Joseph Martin Hagan, O.P.

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Br. Joseph Martin Hagan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2009. The following year, he spent trekking around Ireland, serving with N.E.T. Ministries. Then, he returned to Notre Dame's Echo program and completed an M.A. in theology, while serving in the Diocese of Wilmington, DE. Br. Joseph entered the Order of Preachers in 2012.

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